Nuts. There are lots of them. And a lot to know about their nutritional content.
Nuts are healthy, but can also be high in fat. The nutritional values to your health differ wildly between types, and it can depend on whether the nuts are raw or roasted, plain or salted, etc.
So how do you know whether or not you should eat nuts – and which nuts – in order to lose weight or maintain a healthy diet with all the right nutrients?
Here is your cheat sheet – a calories in nuts chart. Print out a few copies, put one on your wall, give it to a loved one, keep a copy in your wallet – you never know when it’ll come in handy. The nuts are listed from lowest to highest calorie.
You can find all this data on the National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, a great source for nutrition information. And whenever possible, you should refer to raw nuts – the importance of this is discussed below. Given the broad range of nutritional content of nuts, the categorization of simply being a “nut” is a woefully inadequate classification. For example, some nuts are low in fat and very starchy, like chestnuts, whereas others are high fat and low carb, like macadamia nuts. Most, however, can be incorporated into a healthy diet.
Lowest & Highest Calorie Nuts – There are so many ways to talk about the nutritional content of nuts, so I decided to tackle this by weight, i.e., per 100 grams. This is about 3.5 ounces or roughly two-thirds of a cup on average – a handful. Keep in mind that for some nuts, this is more of a small meal than a big snack. The amount of calories in 100 grams of nuts ranges from 213 for chestnuts all the way to 718 for macadamia nuts – a difference primarily driven by the fat content. The protein and fat in nuts are what have the potential to help you stick to your diet and feel full if you use them in small portions as snacks.
Nuts With The Most Fiber – Almonds have the most fiber (12% w/w, or 12 g/100g) and cashews & pine nuts the least (3-4%). Chestnuts have the most sugar and Brazil nuts the least. Lastly, peanuts, almonds, and pistachios have the most protein (21-26%) and chestnuts the least (2%).
Nuts Vary By Type Of Fat – Protein quality doesn’t vary widely across different nuts, but fat quality does1 2. In terms of absolute amounts (g/100g), Brazil nuts & macadamia nuts have the most saturated fat, where chestnuts have the least. The presence of saturated fat in nuts is not an unhealthy attribute3; in fact, it’s probably a good thing because polyunsaturated fats are highly susceptible to become damaged when they’re processed, and nuts are frequently pasteurized or roasted, which is capable of causing said damage.
Technical Note: For example, one study showed that standard roasting procedures significantly increased the trans fat content, the amount of peroxidized fats, and advanced glycation end products in a variety of different nuts4. Advanced glycation end products, also known as AGEs, are found at high levels in diabetics and are associated with age-related diseases, Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.5 6 7 Further, excess polyunsaturated fats increase the livers susceptibility to injury.
If you can’t find raw nuts or are unsure, stick to those with low polyunsaturated fats like hazel & macadamia nuts, while avoiding those with high polyunsaturated fats like brazil nuts and walnuts. Macadamia nuts are the safest in terms of fat quality. Also, avoid those with the most sugar and carbohydrates like chestnuts and cashews as these can lead to increased AGE production upon roasting.
The essential fatty acid content of nuts (eg, omega-3 & omega-6 fatty acids) should not be a priority in the selection process. If a theoretical optimal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats actually existed, all nuts would be way over it due to their high omega-6 fatty acid content1. Further, in the context of nuts much of the polyunsaturated fat is heat-sensitive and exposed to heat during roasting, and in general, excess polyunsaturated fat increases susceptibility of the liver to damage from a variety of insults.8 9 10 In other words, if you’re having a beer or glass of wine, a bowl of peanuts is not the best choice for a snack.11 12
Low Carb Nuts – If you’re on a low carbohydrate or ketogenic diet, macadamia nuts and pecans are both more than within the acceptable ratio of fats to carbs plus protein (both are >5), however the latter are high in polyunsaturated fats, so check to make sure they’re raw.
Which nuts do you like the most?
- Chung KH, Shin KO, Hwang HJ, Choi KS. Chemical composition of nuts and seeds sold in Korea. Nutr Res Pract. Apr 2013;7(2):82-88. ↩
- Venkatachalam M, Sathe SK. Chemical composition of selected edible nut seeds. J Agric Food Chem. Jun 28 2006;54(13):4705-4714. ↩
- You M, Considine RV, Leone TC, Kelly DP, Crabb DW. Role of adiponectin in the protective action of dietary saturated fat against alcoholic fatty liver in mice. Hepatology. Sep 2005;42(3):568-577. ↩
- Yaacoub R, Saliba R, Nsouli B, Khalaf G, Birlouez-Aragon I. Formation of lipid oxidation and isomerization products during processing of nuts and sesame seeds. J Agric Food Chem. Aug 27 2008;56(16):7082-7090. ↩
- Tan KC, Chow WS, Lam JC, et al. Advanced glycation endproducts in nondiabetic patients with obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep. Mar 2006;29(3):329-333. ↩
- Srikanth V, Maczurek A, Phan T, et al. Advanced glycation endproducts and their receptor RAGE in Alzheimer’s disease. Neurobiol Aging. May 2011;32(5):763-777. ↩
- Simm A, Wagner J, Gursinsky T, et al. Advanced glycation endproducts: a biomarker for age as an outcome predictor after cardiac surgery? Exp Gerontol. Jul 2007;42(7):668-675. ↩
- Lagakos WS. Liver is evil but need not be punished. SFAs. 2013; http://caloriesproper.com/?p=3043. Accessed 6/8/2013, 2013. ↩
- Lagakos WS. Alcohol-proof your liver. SFAs. 2013; http://caloriesproper.com/?p=3133. Accessed 6/8/2013, 2013. ↩
- Ronis MJ, Korourian S, Zipperman M, Hakkak R, Badger TM. Dietary saturated fat reduces alcoholic hepatotoxicity in rats by altering fatty acid metabolism and membrane composition. The Journal of nutrition. Apr 2004;134(4):904-912. ↩
- Li H, Fan YW, Li J, Tang L, Hu JN, Deng ZY. Evaluating and predicting the oxidative stability of vegetable oils with different fatty acid compositions. J Food Sci. Apr 2013;78(4):H633-641. ↩
- de Camargo AC, de Souza Vieira TM, Regitano-D’Arce MA, de Alencar SM, Calori-Domingues MA, Canniatti-Brazaca SG. Gamma radiation induced oxidation and tocopherols decrease in in-shell, peeled and blanched peanuts. Int J Mol Sci. 2012;13(3):2827-2845. ↩
No, the nuts are not listed from lowest to highest calorie, they are listed alphabetically!
Just made the change, they were originally ranked alphabetically, thanks for letting us know.
My favorite nuts are probably almonds and in salads, walnuts are great. Thanks for putting this together, Bill. The extra detail and references are excellent.
Thanks and my pleasure!
This is very informative…thank you for posting! I probably snack on almonds more than any other nut, but hazelnuts and macadamias are my “chocolate.”
Hi Greg, thanks for the comment. I do mainly almonds & macas (when I can find them raw).
Several studies over the past several years have shown the health benefits of nuts — which contain monounsaturated fat, vitamin E, folic acid, magnesium, copper, protein, and fiber, and are rich in antioxidant phytochemicals.
They are a powerhouse of good nutrition that can dramatically reduce the risk of heart disease. They’ve also been shown to play an important role in helping to lower “bad” cholesterol levels and raise “good” cholesterol levels. In addition, they can help dilate blood vessels and prevent hardening of the arteries.
Quote from medicinenet.com
Thanks for the info. I received about 20# of raw home grown pecans a while back. I have been struggling with my weight ever since. As it turns out, I have been eating a whole days worth of calories in pecans. I eat a mix of walnuts, almonds & pecans but my ratio of pecans has skyrocketed since I have them so readily available. Time to cut back on the nuts and try a vegetable or two. ?
Good thing you’ve figured it out! Veggies certainly help control hunger
Tucson’s Dr. Weil touts dark chocolate. How about choc covered nuts???
Big fan of Dr. Weil. What about dark chocolate nuts? What’s your question?